Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
oceanside85 is a Canadian synthwave producer. She has a deep fascination with a wide variety of experimental synth-y sounds, but her musical tastes run the gamut from KMFDM to Nina Simone. I talked to her about how she became passionate about music, her creative approach and how she recharges her creative batteries.
KM: How did you first get interested in making music in general?
oceanside85: Music has been everything to me since the first time I heard my mom sing a lullaby to me as a child. It was a really musical house. My mom was in to lots of ‘80s artists like Madonna and Tina Turner. Culture Club was always playing. My grandfather played jazz piano and my grandma loved classical music, so I really got a great start hearing some amazing music. I would lock myself in my room and play music for hours. I started making tapes of my own music that I would play on my Casio keyboard and sing along with, but what really got me into electronic music production was Mortal Kombat: The Movie, specifically KMFDM’s Juke Joint Jezebel. I was floored when I heard that song and I wanted to make music like that. I found FruityLoops and from there started on the path (which I didn't realize I was even on) into becoming a producer.
KM: Who are some of the artists that have influenced your work and why are they influential for you?
os85: Like I said, KMFDM was a big influence for me, because they had a grit and an energy that amped me up and I loved it. Kraftwerk were the OGs I found along my way. They had a very innovative electronic sound, Sade was so sultry and the emotion in her vocals was amazing, You could really feel her music and that’s what I wanted for my music. David Bowie was so amazing, I loved his compositions and he did some amazing collaborations. Cyndi Lauper made a huge impact on me when I was a girl. I felt she was so cool and colorful and her voice was crazy! I just adore her.
John Carpenter was my favourite composer and scored almost all my favourite movies, and Pat Benatar had attitude and power in her voice. I loved how she belted it out and I love to sing like that, so her songs were really fun to practice. If you are talking synthwave, some of the producers that have influenced me are Miami Nights 1984 and Lazerhawk, as well as Com Truise and Telan Devik. There are so many more in so many different genres that influenced me that we'd be here a while, so lastly I'll just add Nina Simone who is my all time favorite vocalist. Her voice is so unique and beautiful. She was strong and soulful. She’s the greatest singer of all time for me!
KM: Tell me about the process you go through when creating new music.
os85: When I'm starting a new track, I usually have a idea of the theme, emotion or style that I want to go for. After that, I choose a reference track, so that I can make sure to stay in that realm of sound production. I like to create varying styles and meld genres and experiment a bunch. That can be good or bad, it helps me stay unique and creative but is sometimes jarring if the album is purely random, so I’m now learning to zone in on certain sounds.
I will choose a style and make sure I stick to it for the EP. I will, probably, at some point make a totally experimental album as jarring as I can because I don’t want to ever stifle myself to fit in with the crowd. I think that creates a cool way to have every album be like a different adventure and that’s why I refer to my different styles as dimensions because depending on the album you listen to you could be in for a surprise. Not all of my music is going to sound the same. In fact, I make sure I switch it up because I have so many varying tastes and I want there to be something for everyone. I usually have a name of a track or name of a album and a concept and build from there.
KM: What's your view on the current state of synthwave as a scene?
os85: There are so many amazing producers and singers out there right now. I love it. Synth music to me encapsulates so many styles, genres and emotions. You can literally go anywhere and do anything with it. I would like to see new styles and old styles accepted and promoted. Everyone just keep making your awesome music because we need variety!
I hope that the unique styles of synthwave create many more fans of the genre and keep it fresh for those who are tired of the same cookie cutter formulas. There needs to be less gatekeepers and more thoughtful regard for the effort, tears and passion that it takes someone to put their creation out there for all to hear. That’s why I run The Neon Pyramid. It’s a YouTube channel dedicated to promoting the brightest lights known or unknown in the scene. If your song is mixed well and creatively, I will upload it. It doesn’t have to be ‘80s or poppy, it just has to be synth music that is rad. You don’t have to be a professional songwriter or a signed artist to make amazing music, but you should be trying to hone your craft and never stop learning. Always try to best your last. That’s my plan!
KM: What are your future career plans?
os85: My future plans are to keep building on the foundation that I’ve made. I want to improve my production skills and learn something new about music every day. Theory, synthesis or chords are my go to when my ears get tired from mixing. I plan to release more music, more videos, and more fun stuff for all the people who support me. I can’t thank them enough. I am blessed to have amazing people supporting my passion. Long term, I would love to travel to Toronto and the U.S. to play some synth shows or festivals.
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
os85: I reinvigorate myself by going into nature. I love the forest and I'm an island girl so the beach is my second home. It rejuvenates me from the fast paced techno world we live in. I need a balance of both technology and the solitude of nature. Being a retro girl in a futuristic world also keeps that balance. To me, its very relaxing putting on the SNES Super Mario Kart Koopa Beach track and just enjoying the waves while the time limit maxes out, puffing clouds ’til you don’t know what dimension you are in. Retro gaming then heading to the beach after a long day of mixing is the best.